Photograph, publicity, Nat King Cole, paper / chipboard, photographer unknown, used by Lee Gordon and Max Moore, Australia, 1955
This is one of a group of mounted photographs collected by Sydney-based tour manager Max Moore. It is relevant to the history of concert tours of Australia by overseas artists in the 1950s, and helps illustrate the remarkable career of promoter Lee Gordon. From 1954 to 1962, American-born Gordon brought the world's biggest musical stars to Australia's entertainment-starved masses. The photo was originally displayed in Gordon's office, providing a rare and direct material connection to the legendary originator of rock 'n' roll concerts in Australia. It was mounted on to chipboard for this purpose. For many years subsequently it hung in the office of tour manager Max Moore.
Max Moore (23 January 1923 - 26 December 2011) was one of Australia's most experienced tour managers. In a career spanning five decades, he organised tours for three high profile concert promoters: Lee Gordon, Harry M Miller and Kevin Jacobsen.
Moore joined the Lee Gordon organisation in January 1955 as a 'dogsbody' (Max Moore, 'Some Days are Diamonds' New Holland, 2003, p32). Within six months he was elevated to the position of tour manager for musical entertainers visiting from overseas, a role he pioneered in Australia. His responsibilities included arranging transport and accommodation, logistics, promotions, marketing, ticketing, box office management and banking. Gordon operated on a large scale and was concerned with 'the big picture', while Max Moore, along with Alan Heffernan, saw to the details.
In January 1955 Lee Gordon had great success with tours by Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. At this point he was flying in a new set of entertainers from the USA practically every month. Gordon brought Cole back to Australia in 1956 and 1957.
This tour exemplifies how, even before the explosion of rock 'n' roll in Australia, Max Moore managed tours for Gordon by some of the greatest names in American show business. These included Louis Armstrong, Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray and Harry Belafonte. The tour by Bill Haley and His Comets in January 1957 was the first of many rock 'n' roll tours promoted by Lee Gordon. Moore managed visits by some of the greatest American stars of 1950s rock 'n' roll: Little Richard, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers and Jerry Lee Lewis and many others. Along with American film and television, the consumption of rock 'n' roll was part of a post-World War II cultural shift in Australia from British to US influences. Lee Gordon's concert tours helped to create the Australian rock 'n' roll industry, by bringing local support acts to the attention of large stadium audiences.
With Alan Heffernan, Moore ran Lee Gordon Records, an independent record company that created the Leedon label. Lee Gordon went into a swift decline in the early 1960s, leading to his death. As a result, Max accepted an offer to join Col Joye Enterprises in 1962, working for Joye and his brother/manager Kevin Jacobsen, who was to become one of Australia's most successful entrepreneurs. He also worked for Harry M. Miller's Pan Pacific Promotions from 1964 to 1967, before returning to work with Jacobsen until 1995.
Seeking no publicity for himself and remaining busy in the background, Moore was reliable, enterprising, professional and greatly admired as a gentleman in the cutthroat world of show business. He looked after the entertainers' needs on tour and many expressed their gratitude by signing publicity photos of themselves with a dedication to Max Moore. He often earned their friendship as a result. He became a close friend of John Denver and was devastated at the singer's death in a plane crash.
Moore's 2003 autobiography 'Some Days are Diamonds' is a valuable record of the Lee Gordon years and an insider's account of the daily operations of the Harry M. Miller and Kevin Jacobsen organisations: the triumphs and the flops, the gimmicks and the schemes, the pranks and the tantrums. It paints a vivid picture of the old Sydney Stadium, the first wave of Australian rock 'n' roll culture, the 1960s British beat boom, touring entertainers in regional Australia and large arena tours of the by the likes of ELO, Kiss and Springsteen.
Max Moore retired in 1995 after forty years in the business. He died on in 2011 at Bundanoon, New South Wales, aged 89.
From 1955 until the early 1960s, this actual mounted photograph of Nat King Cole hung in Lee Gordon's office in the Weaver Building at 151 Bayswater Road, Rushcutters Bay, on the wall behind his white boomerang-shaped desk. Lee Gordon died in 1963. His company Big Show Pty Ltd was wound up and Max Moore took possession of the photograph.
This photograph is one of a series collected by Max Moore, as a reminder of the entertainers with whom he worked during his long career as a show business tour manager based in Sydney. Artists' managers or agents sent photos of their entertainers to the Australian concert promoters, to be used for publicity purposes in concert programs, newspapers and magazine articles. From his earliest days with promoter Lee Gordon, Moore would often ask the artists to sign the photos, and many autographs include a warm dedication to him. When he left the Lee Gordon organisation, Moore continued the practice of having touring artists sign publicity photos which he then had mounted on chipboard. For many years the photographs were proudly displayed in his office, as pictured on the cover of his 2003 autobiography 'Some Days are Diamonds'.